Gardens and Landscapes

Gardens and Landscapes Conservation

English Heritage looks after many nationally important historic gardens and landscapes, from the manicured English gardens at Wrest Park and Osborne House, to the wild meadows at Down House. Their conservation covers a range of responsibilities including protection from pests and pesticides, managing the impacts of climate change, conserving rare plants, and historical and archeological research.



Conservation Stories

Read more about some of our recent and ongoing conservation projects to protect the gardens and landscapes in our care. 

What we do

Looking after historic parks and gardens can be complex. The protection and conservation of historic designs and features have to be carefully balanced against the needs of visitors, wildlife and the conservation of rare historic plants. At English Heritage the conservation of our gardens and landscapes is guided by detailed management and maintenance practices. Read more about the different areas of our work, and download extensive guidance on our management and maintenance policies below.


The Kitchen Garden at Audley End contains a large collection of historic fruit cultivars, some dating from the 17th century

Plant Collections

English Heritage cares for many significant and historic plants and plant collections. Some of the plants are among the earliest introductions of that species in the UK. Others are intrinsically linked with historic events or people, such as those at Down House, the family home of Charles Darwin where he developed his ground-breaking theories.

We also conserve collections of rare historic plants, such as fruit cultivars and over 3,000 veteran trees. At Marble Hill, for example, we care for a Black Walnut which has been recorded as the third largest in the country and is about 300 years old. These important collections often depend on conserving the unique microclimates that are vital to their survival.

Landscape Advice Note: Fruit and Historic Sites
Landscape Advice Note: Tree Management Policy for English Heritage Properties

Canada Geese, seen here at Audley End, can damage lawns and other vegetation, as well as being aggressive towards people during the breeding season
© Marianne Majerus

Threats to Gardens and Landscapes

The fabric of historic gardens and landscapes is threatened by pests, diseases and invasive plant species. These growing threats are thought to be the result of increased global trade as well as climate change and are introduced via infected plant material or human transfer, or are spread naturally, for example by wind, water or wildlife. Animals like squirrels, badgers and Canada geese can also threaten the presentation and management of a historic garden or landscape.

Landscape Advice Note: Squirrel Policy for English Heritage Properties
Landscape Advice Note: Badgers on Historic Sites
Landscape Advice Note: Canada Geese
Landscape Advice Note: Horse Chestnut Bleeding Canker
Landscape Advice Note: Problem Weeds
Landscape Advice Note: Sudden Oak Death (Ramorum Dieback)

Vinehouse pot plants at Audley End

Environmental Sustainability

The consequences of climate change are already noticeable in many historic gardens,from increased carbon dioxide levels to average temperature changes and more frequent extreme weather. These changes affect not only historic planting but also visitor numbers and needs, perhaps resulting in more wear and tear or alterations to visitor facilities and routes due to changes in the prevailing weather conditions.

Developing policies to manage the impact of climate change allows us to conserve historic gardens for the future. As well as monitoring the effects of climate change in our gardens and landscapes, we limit the use of peat and manage green waste sustainably wherever possible.

Landscape Advice Note: Use of Peat Policy for English Heritage Properties
Landscape Advice Note: Green Waste Management Policy for English Heritage Properties
Landscape Advice Note: Use of Pesticides
Gardening in the Global Greenhouse:
   Full Report

Harebells growing on a wall at Byland Abbey

Conservation Management

Conservation management plans for individual properties help us to understand what matters and why, and how to conserve and manage it. They can also be used to develop programmes of repair and restoration or to draw up proposals for change.

As well as advice on preparing plans, English Heritage publishes guidance on the standardised management practices and policies applied at all our historic gardens and landscapes.

Landscape Advice Note: Commemorative Benches
Landscape Advice Note: Commemorative Trees
Landscape Advice Note: Falconry Displays on Historic Properties
Landscape Advice Note: Vegetation on Walls
Landscape Advice Note: The Treatment of Dead Wood in Historic Parks and Gardens
The Management and Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens and Landscapes: The English Heritage Handbook, edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright

The Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle, recreated in 2009, was the result of detailed research on historic designs and plants


Detailed historical research enables us to restore historic designs and introduce appropriate historic plants. Our research methods include landscape and geophysical surveys, aerial photography, and remote sensing technology as well as excavation and the study of environmental archaeological evidence.

At Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, for example, detailed historical and archaeological research was the focus of the restoration of a 17th-century style garden. The garden planting was based on the advice of 17th-century garden writers such as John Gerard and John Parkinson in his book Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).

Where historical evidence is lacking, new designs may be appropriate, such as those created for our Contemporary Heritage Gardens project. These designs had to be in keeping with the context of each historic property but also present the best of contemporary design and set standards of design for future heritage.

Landscape Advice Note: Garden Archaeology Reports
The Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle edited by Anna Keay and John Watkins

A female gardener with hair in a ponytail crouches on a pathway, working between two richly-planted flower beds

Work in our gardens

Like the idea of working in some of the country's most beautiful and historic gardens? From planting Arts and Crafts beds to maintaining endangered wildflower meadows, working in our gardens team is full of variety and opportunity. 

Learn more about the people who work in our gardens and the kinds of activities we do to preserve these amazing cultural heritage sites. 

Read more about the roles in our gardens team
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